Articles, quizzes, and grammar tips for word-lovers everywhere

A smorgasbord of fusion words for the Twitterati

Smorgasbord of fusion words

In March 2011 the social networking site Twitter, launched in 2006, celebrated its fifth birthday. Amid all the media discussion of tweeters, trending, and followers, the term Twitterati has cropped up quite a bit. It’s an odd-looking word, and an example of an interesting and creative variety of word formation, where a word is borrowed […]

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It’s all meme, me me…

Lolcat

When Richard Dawkins coined the word meme in his 1976 book The Selfish Gene, he wanted a word like gene that conveyed the way in which ideas and behaviour spread within society by non-genetic means: The new soup is the soup of human culture. We need a name for the new replicator, a noun which […]

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Mother’s Day

Tulips

This Sunday we celebrate Mother’s Day in the UK: that day of the year on which mothers are particularly honoured by their children. In North America and South Africa it is the second Sunday in May; in Britain it has become another term for Mothering Sunday. According to A Dictionary of English Folklore as cited […]

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Sesquipedalian ruminations (or, thinking about long words)

Sesquipedalian

It appears to be human nature to have a fascination with long or strange words. Most people, if you care to ask them about it, have a handful of words that they consider to be favorites, and very rarely is it that anyone admits that their favorite word is ‘kite’ or ‘plant’. Rather, the words […]

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Of course ‘clownvestite’ is a word!

Clown

Part of my job involves finding the extent to which Oxford Dictionaries Online is being linked to from other websites. To perform this task I query the search engines, and to see how you use our dictionary I visit a proportion of the websites linking to ODO that I find. A significant proportion of inbound […]

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-ize or -ise?

-ize or -ise?

Many people visiting the World (non-US) version of our website ask us why we spell words such as realize, finalize, and organize with ‘-ize’ spellings, rather than ‘-ise’. There’s a widespread belief that these spellings belong only to American English, and that British English should use the ‘-ise’ forms instead, i.e. realise, finalise, and organise. […]

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The F-word: how often do people *really* look it up?

Graph

If you are a seasoned OxfordWords reader, you may be familiar with our periodic search monitor pieces. These are interactive tag clouds, each showing a month’s snapshot of the relative frequency with which you, the users of Oxford Dictionaries Online, access different words. The words and ranks you see are drawn from our web statistics […]

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Japanese earthquake and tsunami search trends

Graph

The dictionary may well seem like a passive object – for hundreds of years it has been a sedentary repository of words, sitting idly on a shelf waiting to be picked up and used. But if you had the ability to make it an active object, one that could tell us what words people were […]

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